Richard Feely says atmospheric CO2 is changing ocean chemistry

Feely says oceans are absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which makes them more acidic. He advises ‘drastic CO2 emission reductions, on the order of 80% by 2050’ to avoid serious damage to ocean ecosystems.

Richard Feely: We have to have drastic CO2 emission reductions on the order of 80% by 2050 if we are to avoid serious impacts on our ocean ecosystems.

Richard Feely, of the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, said that Earth’s oceans are absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, making oceans more acidic. This could pose a threat to ocean life.

Richard Feely: Particularly our shellfish – lobster, crab, clams and oysters -even the basis of the food chain – the plants and green zooplankton that are food for our fish produce calcium carbonate skeletons and shells.

Feely said that acidity is weakening these shells and skeletons, and could eventually prevent some marine creatures from growing them at all.

Richard Feely: The skeletons provide the basis of the coral reef ecosystem, and throughout the world our fisheries resources represent about 20% of the protein resources for about a third of the population of the world. And so, as we see these changes taking place, we’re concerned that many of our fisheries resources would be impacted.

Feely emphasized the global consequences of ocean acidification.

Richard Feely: These problems are serious, but they can be avoided as long as we make a concerted effort to reduce CO2 emissions. We need to do that within the next couple of decades.

Our thanks to:
Richard Feely
Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Seattle, WA

Photo Credit: Paulo Brandao

Beth Lebwohl